Monday, December 10, 2012

Meaningful, Affordable Gift Idea (With Tutorial)

I'm sometimes wary of DIY gifts because too often I find that the cost of supplies exceeds the cost of a comparable store bought gift and with the former you're having to invest your time too, which can be in short supply at this time of year. In contrast, I promise this handmade ornament is both inexpensive and easy (if your hand model is in a cooperative mood.)

I bought a tub of clay from Target (in the office/art supplies section) for something like $5.00, give or take. For a baby hand print, you need to grab a hunk of clay about the size of your two hands balled together, slightly larger than a baseball. With all rings off, work the clay in your hands for a few minutes to make sure there aren't any air bubbles in the clay, and then roll into a ball like it's a meatball. While you're rolling, the goal is to make sure there are no seams in the ball.

Put the ball on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap. Here's a thrifty tip: Pre-used plastic wrap (clean, of course) actually works better than a new piece of plastic wrap because it's less clingy, and it also seems to be less likely to wrinkle during the next step. 
With the clay between the plastic, slowly roll the ball into a flat disk with a rolling pin. More passes with less pressure makes the plastic less likely to wrinkle and leave undesired imprints in the clay. When your clay is about 1/4 inch thick, pull the top piece of plastic off the perfectly smooth, flat disk.
Grab your hand model and put his hand on the disk. Use one hand to hold his hand in place (probably unnecessary if the hand model can be relied on not to wiggle) and your other hand to press the top of each part of his hand, to get an even imprint. Remember to place his hand towards the bottom of the disk so you have room to make a hole. My instinct was to try and center my model's hand, but that doesn't work for the next step.

Use a drinking straw to make a hole at the top of the ornament for hanging. Let dry for several days. Mine took about 3-4 days to dry completely. If desired, you could write the name of the hand model and the date on the back with a permanent marker.
A 2.5 pound container of clay will make at least six baby hand prints, so this gift costs about $1 each, yet it's thoughtful and personal. I also like that it's not messy (the clay isn't sticky) and doesn't take a lot of time if you do it assembly line style (i.e., roll all the balls, then flatten them all into disks, then do the hand impressions, then wipe your model's hand, then punch the holes.) You could also not punch the hole and give it with a plate stand if you think your recipient would prefer to display the hand print year round rather than have an ornament.

These are ideal gifts for parents and grandparents. We already gave one to my notoriously hard to shop for father-in-law and he liked it very much. We're keeping two for ourselves (one of each hand) and when Baby is grown up and moves out (*sob*) we'll give him one to take with him.


  1. Aww, what a sweet Christmas present! I'm sure they'll love it.

  2. My 9 yr old made this in his church class when he was 4 and it's one of my fav gifts ever! It's still on my dresser!

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